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Why Messy Foods Are The Perfect Party Dishes This Summer
The quick summary
- Messy foods are a fun and flavour-packed trend for summer
- Big, bold flavours will set your messy plates apart
- BBQ ribs and messy wedges are ideal options for riding the trend
- Quick to prepare – and spices up your profits
The new trend for messy meals is the perfect antidote to perfectly presented plates – and it’s all the rage right now. Gone are the formalities around food. It’s all about getting hands-on, and stuck-in, to a messy but mouthwatering splatter of a platter.
With messy food, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. While its appearance can be no-frills, your flavours need to be five-star. We’re talking big, bold and punchy.
Sysco chef Simon Hudson is a big supporter of this latest food trend. It’s an area with virtually endless opportunities. You could try melt-in-the-mouth meatballs or sticky chicken wings. Or why not some burritos or nachos smothered with gooey, oozy, tasty toppings?
Simon’s personal favourites are BBQ ribs and messy wedges. He says they capture the trend in all its messy glory. Customers love them – and they’re great for your profit margins, too.
So what’s involved for chefs who want to execute this tempting trend?
Big, bold flavours are where it’s at with messy food. However scattergun the presentation, your dish has to eat well.
Simon’s BBQ ribs recipe is a perfect example of embracing messy, while injecting maximum taste. He achieves full-on flavour by covering the ribs in foil and braising them in a marinade for two and a half hours at 140 degrees until they’re beautiful and tender.
“When you take them out, leave the foil on and let them cool down before refrigerating them overnight,” he says. “That helps seal in the flavour. When it’s cooling down in the sauce, it will absorb even more flavour and gives it some lovely moisture.”
Simon spices the recipe up with a little ground coffee. It’s not conventional – but it is super-tasty. “If you have tap-outs from your barista machine, throw them in, because they work very well in the marinade,” he says.
He advises adding “a bit of a pow with the ribs”. “You need something to really take it by the horns and give it some really impacting flavour,” he says. “The stickiness and sweetness of my recipe works really well.”
Simon’s bold approach extends to his messy wedges recipe. “The heart of my wedges is a Mexican dish. Sometimes, when we make the chilli con carne for the recipe, I’ll add cocoa chilli – just a little pinch. It changes the taste very subtley but very nicely.”
The charm of messy food is that is swaps stuffy, intricate presentation for in-your-face, visually striking sharing platters. Simon’s all for that.
“With my ribs, it’s all about getting colour on the plate,” he says. “It’s very visual – with the colours of the vegetables, and then a garnish of chilli and scallion, and the colours are just fabulous. I also add sesame seeds to give a bit of sparkle to the plate.”
So think colour, think impact. You’re aiming to achieve a social and shareable street food style. “Embrace the messiness, embrace the flavour – the flavour is what it’s all about!” says Simon.
Shareable, messy foods with big, bold flavours suit big, bold occasions. They’re ideal for summer menus, where your customers want to socialise – and soak up some sun (if they’re lucky!). Think markets, street food hubs – and just about any outdoor food event, restaurant or bar.
“People love fine dining, everybody does, but everybody loves their street food too,” says Simon.
Simon reckons messy, social food – like his own recipes – are ideal for a summer setting.
“For food like my messy wedges, the ideal setting is a good bar where people are enjoying themselves and having a few beers. And as street food as well, on a cart somewhere,” he says. “With the ribs, if you serve them in the right way, you’ll make that connection with street food – which is so trendy at the moment.”
The food might be messy. But financially, you can really clean up. Low cost of ingredients combined with how quick and easy the dishes are to make is a real boon for chefs.
Simon’s insists chefs can make a killing on ribs. “There’s a great mark-up on this dish, you’re talking about belly ribs, a bit of spiralised vegetables and dressing, so there’s a great mark-up – you can charge a good margin,” he says. “There’s not that much work in it either.”
Of course, you can take the basic idea and let your creativity run wild. “Some chefs we’ve shown this dish to have put their own stamp on it,” says Simon. “They put their own meat on it, slow cook their own BBQ brisket – then put it on top. And they add their own special spice mixes.”
Wedges are another messy money-spinner. “It’s a great, profitable dish,” says Simon. “The chilli is probably the most expensive thing to create there, but again there’s a great mark up. If you’re going to sell it as a sharing platter you can make an even bigger margin.”
So maybe it’s time you got messier with your menu. This latest lip-smacking food trend is quick to prepare, fun and relaxed, ideal for summer – and gives you a great mark up. Come on – what’s not to like!?